US Holocaust Museum revokes Suu Kyi’s human rights award

Aung San Suu Kyi was a Mandela-like figure in Myanmar who spent years under house arrest for opposing the country’s military dictatorship. (AP)
Updated 08 March 2018
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US Holocaust Museum revokes Suu Kyi’s human rights award

WASHINGTON: The United States Holocaust Museum is revoking a major human rights award given to Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s civilian leader, saying she has failed to respond adequately to the mass killings of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority.
The museum announced Wednesday that the Elie Wiesel Award given to Suu Kyi in 2012 would be rescinded. The move is just the latest in a series of blows to Suu Kyi’s international reputation, which has plummeted over the Rohingya massacres.
In response to the museum’s action, a spokesman for Suu Kyi said the decision appeared to be based on “the wrong information” and that it made the Myanmar government “very disappointed and sad.”
Suu Kyi was a Mandela-like figure in Myanmar who spent years under house arrest for opposing the country’s military dictatorship. She became an international rallying point and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Her party won a landslide victory in 2015 and she assumed the newly created post of state counselor, although the military still retains significant political and economic power.
Hopes had been high for Suu Kyi to make the transition from revered opposition figure to reformist political leader, given her long campaign for democracy. Instead, human rights advocates consider her a disappointment, particularly in her response to the Rohingya killings.
The Holocaust Museum has embraced the plight of the Rohingya in recent years, and published a report in November that concluded there was “mounting evidence of genocide” committed by both the military and armed Buddhist extremists.
In a letter to Suu Kyi released Wednesday, the museum accused her government of obstructing United Nations investigators and promoting “hateful rhetoric” against the Rohingya community, even as it acknowledged she has little influence over the military.
The museum had hoped Suu Kyi “would have done something to condemn and stop the military’s brutal campaign and to express solidarity with the targeted Rohingya population,” the letter stated. “The severity of the atrocities in recent months demand that you use your moral authority to address this situation.”
Suu Kyi does not oversee her country’s military or its security operations that set off the exodus of Rohingya refugees, but three former fellow Nobel Peace laureates last month accused her and the army of committing genocide in northern Rakhine state. They said that as the country’s leader she cannot avoid responsibility. Her government has defended the military operation in the north and has embraced the prosecution of journalists along with other attempts to suppress and discredit the media.
Zaw Htay, Suu Kyi’s spokesman, said in response to a request for comment: “Myanmar has always been supportive of the Holocaust Museum’s principles and activities and the purposes of the museum. But now, now the latest situation in Rakhine state, we see that the Museum has no balance perceptions on us.”
He added: “We assume that the decision of revoking the award is also based on of the wrong information they have received. The Myanmar government is very disappointed and sad on the decision made by the Museum. And this decision will not have any effect on the supports from Myanmar people to the state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.”


Number of asylum-seekers in Europe plunges in 2017, says EU

Migrants walk behind a police car during their way from the Austrian-German border to a first registration point. (AFP)
Updated 16 min 9 sec ago
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Number of asylum-seekers in Europe plunges in 2017, says EU

  • Over 460,000 people applied for asylum in Europe in 2013. More than 660,000 did so in 2014
  • Merkel now faces the challenge of persuading EU governments to sign up to a common plan on the migrants

BRUSSELS: The EU’s asylum office says the number of people applying for international protection in Europe has plunged but remains higher than before 2015, when more than 1 million migrants entered, many fleeing the war in Syria.
EASO said in an annual report Monday that 728,470 application requests were made for international protection in 2017, compared to almost 1.3 million applications the previous year. It says around 30 percent of the applicants come from conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
EASO says there is a still a backlog: More than 950,000 applications were still awaiting a final decision at the end of last year, almost half of them in Germany.
Over 460,000 people applied for asylum in Europe in 2013. More than 660,000 did so in 2014.
Meanwhile, hard-liners in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc on Monday gave her a two-week ultimatum to tighten asylum rules or risk pitching Germany into a political crisis that would also rattle Europe.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer’s CSU party at a meeting unanimously backed his call to give Merkel a fortnight to find a European deal on the burning issue by a June 28-29 EU summit, failing which he would order border police to turn back migrants.
Three years after her decision to open Germany’s borders to migrants fleeing war in Syria and Iraq and misery elsewhere, Merkel is still struggling to find a sustainable response to complaints from the CSU, her Bavarian allies, over her refugee policy.
Merkel’s woes come as European Union countries are once again at loggerheads over immigration, triggered by Italy’s refusal this month to allow a rescue ship carrying 630 migrants to dock.
Malta also turned the vessel away, sparking a major EU row until Spain agreed to take in the new arrivals.
Seehofer has been one of the fiercest critics of Merkel’s liberal stance, under which over one million asylum seekers have been admitted into the country since 2015.
He wants to turn away at the border new arrivals who have previously been registered in another EU country — often their first port of call, Italy or Greece.
But Merkel says that would leave countries at the EU’s southern periphery alone to deal with the migrant influx. Instead, she wants to find a common European solution at the EU summit in Brussels.
“How Germany acts will decide whether Europe stays together or not,” Merkel told her CDU party’s leadership at a meeting in Berlin, according to participants.

Popular misgivings over the migrant influx have given populist and anti-immigration forces a boost across several European nations, including Italy and Austria where far-right parties are now sharing power.
In Germany, voters in September’s election handed Merkel her poorest score ever, giving seats for the first time to the far-right anti-Islam AfD.
Several high profile crimes by migrants have also fueled public anger. They include a deadly 2016 Christmas market attack by a failed Tunisian asylum seeker and the rape-murder in May of a teenage girl, allegedly by an Iraqi.
With an eye on October’s Bavaria state election, the CSU is anxious to assure voters that it has a roadmap to curb the migrant influx.
“We must send a signal to the world: it’s no longer possible to just set foot on European soil in order to get to Germany,” a leading CSU figure, Alexander Dobrindt, told the party meeting.
Seehofer had struck a more conciliatory tone, telling Bild on Sunday: “It is not in the CSU’s interest to topple the chancellor, to dissolve the CDU-CSU union or to break up the coalition.
“We just want to finally have a sustainable solution to send refugees back to the borders.”

Merkel now faces the challenge of persuading EU governments to sign up to a common plan on the migrants.
Central and eastern EU nations such as Hungary and Poland have either refused outright or resisted taking in refugees under an EU quota system.
A populist-far right government in Italy and the conservative-far right cabinet in neighboring Austria have also taken an uncompromising stance.
Merkel’s talks later Monday with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in Germany could prove crucial if she is to have any chance of forging an agreement in Brussels.
On Tuesday, she will also meet French President Emmanuel Macron in Germany.
Berlin is also reportedly preparing to call a meeting between Merkel and the leaders of several EU frontline nations in the migrant crisis ahead of the EU summit.
“It would be almost a miracle if she emerges a winner from the next EU summit,” Welt daily said.
But the chancellor may have no choice, as Seehofer could still launch the nuclear option of shutting Germany’s borders in defiance of her — an act of rebellion which would force her to sack him.
That “would be the end of the government and the alliance between CDU and CSU,” an unnamed CDU source told Bild.